Topic: Man of War, Man of Peace: the 1860s by Tony Walsh

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A Tony Walsh entry in the 2012 Memoir and Local History Competition.

Archived version here.

Feared by European settlers as a rebel of unspeakable savagery, feted by Tuhoe as a freedom fighter, Tamaikoha was constantly pursued by colonial forces throughout the Urewera country as a supporter and leading lieutenant of Te Kooti Rikirangi.

A skilled practitioner of guerrilla warfare he had also an unholy reputation for cruelty towards his enemy and was said to have inspired his band of followers through cannibalizing the slain and thus taking on their mana.

After one particular raid on coastal Bay of Plenty in 1868 Tamaikoha was pursued to the Waimana Valley by a force of 200 Forest Rangers and Armed Constabulary under the command of Colonel St John. This party was supported by a hundred Arawa kaupapa led by Major Gilbert Mair. The wily Tamaikoha lured them into an ambush in a gorge south of Whakarae. Captain Rushton, an officer with the mission, was later to report, “Tamaikoha was strongly entrenched in a very strong position a mile and a half up the gorge and on spurs all around commanding it.”

Colonel St John was forced to withdraw to Whakatane in abject defeat and Tamaikoha’s standing with Tuhoe grew immensely.

Tamaikoha was never captured and when Te Kooti finally sought refuge in the southern King Country the fighting drew to an uneasy close.

Te Kooti eventually won a pardon from the New Zealand Government and in 1871 his ally Tamaikoha emerged from the fastnesses of the Urewera and constructed a meeting house at Ngutuoha on the Tauwharemanuka clearing, an indication he wished to sue for peace.

 Of great mana with Tuhoe and respected for his achievements by Europeans Tamaikoha still retained  the ancient traditions, residing in a punga whare and wearing the traditional form of dress.

Nevertheless with the future of two young daughters to consider Tamaikoha decided that in the rapidly changing world of the time an English education was important both for them and for their hapu. Consequently the two young lasses were despatched to boarding school in Auckland to learn the culture of the pakeha.

In the meantime Tamaikoha continued customary life in the upper Waimana Valley. Yet, because of his mana among Maori and the respect he had gained within the European community, he was occasionally called upon for his advice in The Land Court in Whakatane to help adjudicate in particularly difficult land ownership disputes between argumentative claimants.

 A year slipped by and Tamaikoha’s daughters returned home for the long Christmas holidays. By now they had become prim and proper Victorian maidens. In their long skirts and starched high-necked blouses they were appalled to find their father, an important member of the community, still dressed and lived traditionally. Their consternation grew even greater when they learned that their father was to appear in court the following week to help adjudicate in a land dispute.

Together they spoke as if with one mind.

“This is not good enough father! You can’t go dressed like that. It’s not right.”

Now, Tamaikoha was of mind to ignore them but, as all men know, strong-willed daughters never give up.  The bickering and nagging continued until at last the mighty chief sued for peace and agreed to their demands. Together with his girls he took a trip to Whakatane on a shopping mission. A men’s outfitters was located and  under the supervision of his daughters Tamaikoha finally emerged suitably attired and uncomfortable  in a black suit and shoes, white shirt and collar and - to cap the outfit off - a black top hat.

 Court day came round and the girls rose before daylight and dressed in their finery. A grumbling Tamaikoha was put together by the girls and the threesome departed by gig on the long trip to Whakatane courthouse.

“All stand for his honour,”  intoned the Clerk of the Court as the judge entered the court room.

“Thank you. You may sit now,” he continued. Those assembled obeyed. As they did so the Clerk’s roving eye came to rest on our friend Tamaikoha, still wearing his top hat.

“Tamaikoha, remove your hat. You are at present in a court room before a member of the judiciary.”

“No,” was the solemn and adamant response from a grim-visaged Tamaikoha.

“Tamaikoha. Once again. I repeat. Remove your hat or I will have you escorted from this room.”

“Never,” came the stern retort.

Turning to a police officer the clerk commanded, “Officer, remove that man from this room.”

At this, the forbidding figure of Tamaikoha rose commandingly to his feet. His jacket he removed, folded and placed on his seat. From his head he retrieved the infamous top hat and placed it on the floor between his feet. One big hand slipped the braces from his shoulders . The other hand groped for the top button of his trousers.

“Tamaikoha, Tamaikoha. What are you up to?” spluttered the clerk as the trousers began to descend.

“The hat comes off, the pants come off,” responded the tattooed warrior.

“Tamaikoha. Please resume your seat and dress I beg you,” pleaded the officer of the law.

Dignity intact Tamaikoha donned his jacket did up his trousers and placed the hat on his lofty crown.

And, as far as we know Tamaikoha may be the only person in New Zealand’s history to wear a hat throughout the proceedings of a court.

This story was related to me fifty years ago by Whakatane historian Kingsley Smith.


About the author:

Tony Walsh has been married for 44 years with five children and seven grandchildren. Most of his working life was spent as a teacher and a school principal, during which he spent a great deal of time hunting and trout fishing in the wild. Since his retirement and as his legs got slower, he now fly fishes the rivers, tying his own flies. He published The Black Singlet Brigade with XLibris in 2013, an essential read for any bush adventurer, actual or vicarious. Tony presently edits the local Trout Fishing Club monthly magazine. Now retired, he lives, writes and resides by a trout stream. He describes this as Heaven on earth.


This page archived at Perma CC in October of 2016:

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